Sunday, March 15, 2009

2009 Portland Shamrock Run: Pros, Cons, & Near-Pratfalls

Overall, the Portland Shamrock Run is a very well-orchestrated event. I do want to note some pros and cons.

  • Pro: That it offers a 5k, 8k, and 15k is one of the reasons this is one of the larger running events in Portland. This gives it a "something for everyone" quality, and running events are better in almost every way when the number of participants is higher.
  • Con: While the packet pickup was, all things considered, well-executed, I question the wisdom of moving it from Lincoln High School to its new location at the Adidas campus. Lincoln HS is within walking distance of both the race start-finish area and of the hotels where any out-of-town participants are likely to be staying. The Adidas campus is not, and there isn't even an easy way to get there via Tri-Met (oh, there's a way, but it's not easy by Tri-Met standards, and I write this as an inveterate fan-boy of Tri-Met). And when your packet pickup notice has to bark at us about how little parking is available, and has to warn us from parking on residential streets in the area, it should be a signal that you've picked a bad location. I know you want to capitalize on the foot traffic to sell shoes and gear. Fair enough. You can't set up sales booths at or near Lincoln HS? You can't give us coupons to entice us to your on-campus store? Why can't you? It seems to me you can. I've seen it done countless times.
  • Pro: The course is excellent. This is a difficult course but a beautiful one. It gives people a few nice looks at Portland's downtown and West Hills. Don't change it!
  • Pro: The course markings were clear and well-placed. For all the twists and turns and potential wrong ways, it was always clear which way we needed to go. The volunteers along the way were good about standing in front of the various rabbit holes we might be tempted to go down. That's no small thing.
  • Con: The post-race was a joke. Judging from the presence of vendor booths, same-day registration booths, and so on, the event had what looked to be a substantial stretch of Waterfront Park to work with. And yet after the race, we returned to be herded to a small parking lot across the street from the park if we wanted to redeem our coupons for "free" food and "free" beer. This might be a place where I'd give a favorable mention of the regional brewer who gave out the free beers and the restaurant that gave out the free food, but if I were in their place, I don't think I'd want to be mentioned. By limiting this to such a small area, you guaranteed what we got -- ridiculously long lines trailing long distances out of that small block -- long lines of runners in light clothing, in the pouring rain and strong wind, having just worked up a sweat but now rapidly cooling down, shivering, teeth chattering, asking things like "is this really the line for beer?" Yes, the warm food looked enticing and the beer sounded great -- it's too bad it would have taken so damn long to get any of it! Please change this. Use the space you have. Scale the post-race operation to accommodate the actual crowd you have, or you come off looking cheap. I know there are Oregon liquor control requirements on where you can serve alcohol in a public place, but I also know that Waterfront Park holds numerous beer-serving events throughout the year, and that these manage to handle far larger crowds than this.
  • Pro: I love the shirt. It's black. You had me at black. Thank you so much for not giving out yet another white t-shirt. Do I dare ask for an orange shirt for next year?
  • Con: This is a small one. The public service announcer guy should not use constructions like "just over there" or "across the street." Just over where? What street? We are not necessarily looking at him to see where he's pointing; we can't even necessarily see him as we hear his voice-over. Please either don't bother or direct us by the use of eye-level volunteers, signs with big arrows on them, unmistakable landmarks, or something of the kind.
The wind almost literally knocked me over as I rounded the turn onto Barbur. I will not lay that at the race organizers, either as a pro or a con.

I do love this event and I offer the above in the spirit of improving it for years ahead.

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